British Columbia’s Fight For Sustainable Logging

The ECOreport interviews the producer of two short films about British Columbia’s fight for sustainable logging

By Roy L Hales

When Island Timberlands arrived in 2012, they found Cortes island residents waiting behind a blockade. The Vancouver Observer sent a young film maker to cover the story, but Daniel Pierce found more than just another clash between a logging company and local environmentalists. He is still documenting British Columbia’s fight for sustainable logging.

British Columbia’s Fight For Sustainable Logging

Clearcut on McLaughlin Ridge near Port Alberni, BC, in 2014 – T J Watt photo

This is part of the larger story, being played throughout Vancouver Island and much of the coastal region. The province’s ancient forests are  being indiscriminately mowed down (“harvested”). This creates an incredible amount of waste, which is simply burned. A number of British Columbians believe there is a better way.

In the two YouTube video’s below, Pierce explains what is wrong with the province’s current logging practises.

CHAPTER ONE: Mining For Old-Growth

In Part 1 of this 3-part mini-series (video above), Pierce looks at the endangered old-growth forests of Vancouver Island:

Children Taking part in the 2012 logging blockade on Cortes Island – Daniel Pierce photo

“ … On the one side we’ve got a handful of timber companies that are on track too liquidate the last old growth temperate rainforest on the West Coast … in response to this, there is an increasingly diverse coalition forming around the consensus that the way we do forestry in BC is in need of a radical change, and the only way forward is shift to a sustainable, second growth, value added forestry model …” – Daniel Pierce, Filmmaker

“ … Vancouver Island used to be coated with ancient forests, from valley bottoms to mountain tops. Today, less than 25% of the original forest is still standing. When you look at just the valley bottoms, where the biggest and most valuable trees grow, less than 10% remains. And when you look at just the coastal Douglas Fir bioregion on southeastern Vancouver Island, less than 1% of the original forest remains …” – Daniel Pierce, Filmmaker

Looking at some of the remaining trees on the edge of the clearcut at McLaughlin Ridge, POrt Alberni, BC in 2014 – T J Watt photo

“The industry is extracting staggering volumes of young timber, using highly mechanized practises, exporting raw logs overseas in record numbers. This has coincided with a wave of mill closures and the loss of thousands of forestry jobs …” – Daniel Pierce, Filmmaker

“ … The industrial model of logging in Canada has been to completely eliminate the existing old growth ecosystem and replace it with a monoculture system like a farm. As you walk into a second growth forest, versus an old growth forest, you can literally see the difference …” – Tzeporah Berman, Veteran Activist

CHAPTER TWO: Cut And Run

In Part 2 (YouTube video, above) , Pierce explores BC’s unique brand of industrial forest liquidation:

“ … At the end of the day, everything they do is geared towards increasing profit and minimizing their risk, their exposure and their liability and increase the pay to the stock holders …” – Bill Boardman, Veteran Faller

“ … For years there has been a phrase associated with the kind of forestry that we tend to practise in British Columbia, which is cut and run. Get as much as you can now and forget about tomorrow …” – Ben Parfitt, Policy Analyst at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Logs being piled prior to burning – T J Watt photo

“ All across B.C. vast amounts of so called waste wood are burned in enormous piles left behind after clear cutting: depleting the soils, sending vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and burning thousands of potential forestry jobs that could have come from utilizing that timber …” – Daniel Pierce, Filmmaker

“ … It used to be the law of the land that if companies wanted to log public timber, they had to operate local mills that employed thousands of people in forestry jobs with pensions and benefits ….” – Daniel Pierce, Filmmaker

“ … That commitment is gone. It has been gone for some time. As a result of that commitment being gone, we’ve seen a huge number of sawmills close. We’ve seen job numbers plummet by the tens of thousands …” – Ben Parfitt

Cortes Islanders showing Pierce surviving old growth – Daniel Pierce photo

“ … In 2001 there were over 100,000 people employed in B.C.’s forestry sector, but in the intervening years, due to a perfect storm of deregulation, the catastrophic pine beetle epidemic and the 2008 financial collapse, the number of forestry jobs in BC has been chopped down to just 60,000 …” – Daniel Pierce, Filmmaker

“ … The export of raw unprocessed logs has skyrocketed 1000% since the mid 1990s … BC accounts for 96% of the log exports in the entire country, we are also getting some of the lowest job rates for the timber that we harvest. Ontario cuts 20% of the wood that we do and gets almost 70% of the jobs. This creates three jobs per thousand metres cut, by comparison BC gets less than one …” – Daniel Pierce, Filmmaker

“ … Why has the B.C. Government been so willing to sell out our forests to giant corporations? Maybe it has something to do with the millions in campaign donations they have received from timber companies over the years. According to elections BC, the top timber companies in the province have contributed nearly $3 million to the BC Liberals since 2005, far out shadowing contributions to any other political party. Western Forest Products donated at least $380,000; CANFOR donated over $840,000; And West Fraser has donated almost $1 million …” – Daniel Pierce, Filmmaker

CHAPTER THREE … Coming Soon

Bruce Ellingsen with boards sawn at his mill on Cortes Island – Daniel Pearce photo

In the concluding video of this series, Pierce will show us how the residents of Cortes Island are attempting to log more sustainably.

Cortes Island’s Quest For Sustainable Logging

Daniel Pierce discussed these issues, the vision for his series, and what is yet to come, in  an interview to be broadcast on Cortes Community Radio (CKTZ, 89.5 FM) at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (Link to CKTZ’s live broadcasts)

In the podcast version, which you can listen to below, Pierce discusses:

  • What he saw on Cortes Island, when reporting on the 2012 blockade, and how it inspired him to film more than “just another logging blockade story.”
  • The difference between British Columbia’s forestry model and the methods being put into practice on Cortes.
  • Some of the economic, environmental and social challenges Cortes Island Community Forest is facing in its’ quest for sustainable logging
  • Pierce’s plans for the future: a full length documentary; using virtual reality

All photos courtesy of Daniel Pierce; click on this link to access his Vimeo page (Ramshackle Pictures).

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